BRENT C. WAGNER Lincoln Journal Star
One of Nebraska’s most unique sports is back.
The Nebraska beach volleyball team opened its season with two games on Friday, with the Huskers beating Wayne State 5-0 and Park 4-1.
Nebraska didn’t play beach volleyball last season after the indoor season was moved to the spring. The Huskers’ 2020 beach season was cut short after 10 games due to the pandemic.
One of the reasons beach volleyball is unique is that Nebraska plays its home games on an indoor sand court during one of the coldest months of the year. Nebraska plays at the Hawks Championship Center, the school’s indoor football practice facility.
Additionally, each of the Nebraska players was drafted into the school for a different sport – indoor volleyball.
And the Husker beach volleyball team is making no effort to qualify for the NCAA championship in their sport, admitting they aren’t chasing a tournament berth until the first game has even been played, which is the complete opposite of the Husker volleyball team.
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This is the seventh season that beach volleyball has held an NCAA championship, and with the sport continuing to grow, the number of NCAA tournaments has doubled from eight teams to 16.
But Nebraska ends its beach season well before the NCAA championship (May 4-8) and is once again focused on training for the indoor season.
Many of the top 10 ranked beach teams are now made up of players who only play beach volleyball, and many of the top programs award beach volleyball scholarships.
Still, Nebraska coach Jaylen Reyes thinks the Huskers have a few players who are good enough at beach volleyball to have a shot at making a top 10 beach team.
“I would bet Madi Kubik and Kenzie Knuckles could be really good,” Reyes said. “(Freshman) Bekka Allick is kind of a joke in terms of how much she’s actually played and the things she can do and how she moves in the sand. There aren’t many girls who are 6-foot-3 who can jump and move very well in this (sand). This stuff is pretty deep. This is Hermosa Beach, California, deep.
“I would say those three – and any volleyball team in the world would take Lexi Rodriguez. I’m not saying they would be the No. 1 player at UCLA or USC, but these guys could definitely play.
Nebraska’s No. 1 pair against Wayne State was Kubik and Knuckles, and with a 21-5, 21-18 win, they improved their all-time record together to 8-2 in three seasons.
Against Park, Allick and Rodriguez were in the lead and they won 21-16, 21-16.
Rodriguez, who as a rookie was one of the top liberos in the country for the Huskers’ NCAA finalist team, hadn’t played much beach volleyball before the team began training this month. last.
“It’s completely different on the inside, but I think it’s fun,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like it helps us mentally because it’s tough and we’re not used to it. And it’s good training.
In beach volleyball, each player must hit, serve and defend.
“For me, I get excited if I make a kill, just because I’ve never punched before – I’m a libero,” Rodriguez said.
There are fewer exciting moments in a beach game, and fewer long rallies due to all the open ground to reach. But when you win a long rally, it’s still very nice.
“You work hard for 30 seconds, and when you get the point, it’s a relief and a joy,” Rodriguez said.
Wayne State started its beach team three years ago for many of the same reasons as Nebraska, including the fact that it lets you practice more hours each week during the offseason.
“It’s just endless team-building opportunities for our indoor team that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do if we didn’t have that,” Wayne State coach Scott Kneifl said.
Later this season, Wayne State will travel to Arizona to play several games over spring break, and they have already accepted an invitation to play in the AVCA Small College Beach Championships in Florida.
Next year, the plan is to take Wayne State’s beach team to Hawaii.
Wayne State doesn’t have an indoor beach court like the Huskers, so they had only practiced on the sand once, when it was warm enough to hit the two campus sand courts.
They train indoors by pulling up the net, moving around the lines and using beach volleyball.
This is the second time Wayne State and Nebraska have played at the range.
“Most of our kids, if they’re not from Nebraska, they’re from the Midwest,” Kneifl said. “And having the opportunity to play against Nebraska in anything is a great experience.”